Business News of 2014-01-23

West African shippers protest customs malpractices

The Burkinabe, Malian and Nigerien shipping communities in Ghana have protested against the, “physical escort of goods in transit and the collection of unjustified fees, without receipt.”

“The simultaneous charging of transit infrastructural fees for the e-tracking and human escort fees is clearly abusive and does not conform to any known standard, in addition to the fact that it unnecessarily adds to the cost of doing business in the Ghanaian corridor.”

These were contained in a petition signed by Mr Yaya Yedan, representative of the Burkina Shippers Council, and addressed to the Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority (GPHA) and copied to the Commissioner, Customs division of Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and other stakeholders on 17th January 2014.

According to the statement, a recently appointed Officer-in-Charge of the transit yard of the Tema Harbour has at his own discretion introduced the new measure, which took effect in November 2013.

“The measure, which adversely affects the entire transit trade has been introduced at the discretion of only one customs officer without any official notice to the GPHA, transit destination Shippers Councils’ represented at the Port, National Security and other port stakeholders”, he said.

Mr Yedan said the measure undermined the integrity of the existing GCNET electronic tracking system and contradicts the relevant GRA Commissioner’s order.

“It reinforces the perception of unreliability and unpredictability of the Ghanaian corridor and therefore has the tendency to jeopardize the hard-won reputation of the Ghana ports and the tremendous efforts made by GPHA and other players, including the Ghana Custom Command, to attract transit trade.”

Mr Yedan said:”We hope you will assist to help eliminate this new non-tariff barrier (NTB) for improved efficiency of the Ghana corridor.”

Reacting to the landlocked shipping community petition, Mrs Nunya Amedonoo, Public Relations Officer (PRO), Customs division of the GRA, Tema, said some selected commodities which are normally not sent to their destinations (diversion) are given escorts.

“Cloth, Cooking oil, Tomato paste, canned fish and Alcoholic beverages, which are prone to diversion by the shippers are accompanied by custom officers because the tracking system is not enough to stop such diversions.”

Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are landlocked (no direct access to the sea) countries in West Africa, which rely on coastal countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin to export and import most of their goods, an activity known in maritime circles as transit trade.

Ghana has become one of their most reliable routes since the Ivorian crises. The Tema Harbour alone has between 2001 and 2012, accounted for their combined import and export traffic of more than 8 million metric tonnes.